Florida Grand Opera Presents Frida Kahlo through Professional Development

Joseph Illick
Joseph Illick

Florida Grand Opera

Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World
As part of Miami-Dade and Broward County School Districts’ Virtual Professional Development Programs

Tues. Nov 3, Professional Development Session 1, Miami-Dade School District

Fri. Nov. 13, Recorded Frida Kahlo Performance
At Florida Grand Opera’s Doral Center, Miami

Wed. Nov 25, Professional Development Session 2, Miami-Dade School District

Tues. Dec 1, Professional Development with Broward Schools

Florida Grand Opera’s Education department launched the first part of its’ Professional Development (PD) programs for Miami-Dade and Ft. Lauderdale counties this week, continuing FGO initiatives to engage students with opera.

Based on the Government’s reopening strategy for schools, FGO decided to build virtual programs for distance learning only.

FGO Director of Education Luis Valenzuela said, “Reopening of schools is critical during the pandemic when many children and families are experiencing economic hardship, social isolation, and other stressors. We at FGO are planning to continue helping connect students to the operatic art form. Music can bring substantial benefits to children’s brain development and life success, especially for their future social mobility. We are planning the best possible solutions for teachers to assist with the accomplishment of these goals.”

FGO Education Programs are delivered in person or online, depending on school needs. FGO’s In-School Opera Learning During Experiences virtual version program, ISOLDE, starts with a professional development session with Miami-Dade and Broward County teachers, which introduces the program and provides tools that seamlessly integrate into a teacher’s lesson plan, assessments, and curriculum.

Over 70 teachers and administrators attended the first virtual rendition of the PD course and are excited to move onto the next steps culminating in a virtual performance of Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World. The Professional Development sessions are the most productive way to connect teachers to FGO programs and deliver creative content based on teachers’ available resources.

Based upon the highly-acclaimed book by award-winning English author and illustrator Laurence Anholt, this charming opera follows the real-life story of Marianna Morillo Safa and her friendship with famed painter Frida Kahlo. This delightful family-friendly tale teaches children about art, bravery, and the power of friendship. It is an inspirational piece for middle schoolers.

The 2020-2021 ISOLDE program will support the development of a teacher’s ability to teach social-emotional skills and communicate the importance of those skills to children. It is a tool for teachers as they foster district standards for Social Emotional Learning SEL; and jargon-free language, conveying its benefits to students.

In-School Opera Learning During Experiences (ISOLDE) is an interdisciplinary introduction to the opera program, empowering students to engage with and enjoy opera while meeting state academic standards. The program focuses on various Opera aspects surrounding the idea of ensuring the next generation of opera lovers and is designed for grades 6-8.

Professional Development

Professional development in education is a specialized training or advanced professional learning intended to help administrators, teachers, and other educators improve their professional knowledge, competence, skill, and effectiveness.

During the Nov 3rd session of the program, CEO Susan T. Danis, FGO staff, and composer Joe Illick were able to interact with teachers and introduce them to the company philosophy and other opera aspects. The combination of dramatic narrative, stagecraft, and the range and vulnerability of the human voice were all introduced as aspects of opera that bring emotions to students. Our contribution to the arts brings SEL resources that make a real and positive impact on schools. Teachers and families know that social-emotional skills will prepare students for their futures. When students have limited social-emotional skills, they’re more likely to struggle when facing a new challenge or conflict.

On Nov 25th, teachers will engage in conversations that allow FGO to see how they have absorbed the information presented to them in this program through the utilization of inquiry and object-based learning. The same day, Teachers will have the opportunity to book their school program participation, while exchanging knowledge of STEAM-based classroom-ready student activities.

FGO education department and teachers will have the chance to meet virtually and enjoy the FGO production of Frida Kahlo and The Bravest Girl in the World. They will view the tools created to bring the program to their classrooms, including critical assessments that will review and evaluate program results. The goal is to develop a deep understanding of what students learn, understand, and can do with their knowledge due to this educational experience.

About The Opera

Marianna, a young girl living in the heart of Mexico City, whose home is full of beautiful artwork by Frida Kahlo. She is encouraged by her family to visit Kahlo and have her portrait painted the renowned artist, but is terrified at the thought. There are rumors that Frida keeps skeletons above her bed and exotic pets in her Blue House — people have even said that she is a witch. As Kahlo begins to paint Marianna in her studio, this fear quickly disappears, and a friendship blooms between the two. Marianna meets Frida’s husband, Diego Rivera, and learns of the horrible accident that almost killed her new friend. Through the magic of opera, Frida’s parrot, dog, and monkey all sing, and the audience is invited to join in on the fun as well.


Joseph Illick

Joseph Illick is currently the artistic director and principal conductor of Fort Worth Opera. He has also served as the artistic director of Greater Miami Opera now Florida Grand Opera, Lake George Opera Festival, Shreveport Opera, Voices of Change (Dallas), Voces Intimae (Dallas) and Performance Santa Fe. He has conducted for Opera Theatre of St. Louis, San Francisco Opera (Merola), Opera Omaha, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Stadttheater Aachen, Vienna Chamber Opera, Covent Garden Ensemble, Teatro Lirico d’Europa, Santa Fe Symphony, Santa Fe Pro Musica, Augusta Symphony, Miami Symphony, Nevada Opera Theater and Opera Carolina. He has given a series of performance talks on classical music in Dallas, Miami and Santa Fe. His opera “UnShakeable,” commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera, has been performed throughout New Mexico and Colorado; his opera “Feel the Tango” has been performed in Santa Fe, Fort Worth and Nashville and his children’s opera, “Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World,” will premiere this November.

Studio Artists

Stephanie Doche

Lauded as “explosively eloquent,” (Memphis Flyer) and beholding “fervent, commanding vocal prowess,” (San Diego Story), French-American mezzo-soprano Stephanie Doche (rhymes with posh) is in high demand for her “darkly shaded voice.” In October 2019, Stephanie reprised her “triumphant” performance as Angelina (La Cenerentola) with Opéra Louisiane after singing the title role with Opera NEO in August 2019. During the 2018-2019 season she was a Handorf Company Artist with Opera Memphis where she performed as Toledo (The Falling and the Rising, professional premiere), Suzuki (Madama Butterfly), and Cousin Hebe (H.M.S. Pinafore). Other previous operatic highlights include her “bodly convincing” portrayal of the pants role, Idamante (Idomeneo), as well as Meg March (Little Women), Dorabella (Così fan tutte), Mère Marie (Dialogues des Carmélites), Hänsel (Hänsel und Gretel), Zweite Dame (Die Zauberflöte) and La Suora Zelatrice (Suor Angelica). Stephanie has been a featured soloist with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Riverdale Choral Arts Society, and at Crosstown Arts. A native of Rochester, NY, she holds degrees from SUNY Fredonia and UT Austin. https://www.stephaniedoche.com/

Dylan Elza

Tenor Dylan Elza, a native of Dallas, Texas, and has most recently performed as an Emerging Artist with Virginia Opera’s Herndon Foundation Emerging Artist program for their 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 season. Roles with Virginia Opera include: Messenger in Aida, Thug #1 in Il Postino, Dave in Breaking, F.B.I. Agent in An American Dream. Covers with Virginia Opera include: Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola, Pablo Neruda in Il Postino, Spoletta in Tosca, Goro in Madama Butterfly, Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore, and he also performed Nemorino in Virginia Opera’s 2019 fall outreach production. Other recent roles and covers include: Don José (cover) in La Tragédie de Carmen with Charlottesville Opera, Borsa (cover) in Rigoletto with Central City Opera, Lenski in Eugene Oneginwith Boston Conservatory Opera, Father Grenville in Dead Man Walking with Boston Conservatory Opera, Fenton in Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor with Boston Conservatory Opera, Cop in Cradle Will Rock with Opera Saratoga, and Dr. Caius (cover) in Falstaff with Opera Saratoga. Dylan is also featured on Spotify and iTunes in Opera Saratoga’s CD recording of Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock as the Cop. https://www.dylanelza.com/

Shaina Martinez

Shaina Martinez, soprano, made her Bermuda Festival debut this year as Sophie in Terrence McNally’s Masterclass. Her repertoire includes Susannah (Susannah), Fiordiligi (Cosi fan tutte), Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni), Saffi (Der Ziegeunerbaron), Salud (La Vida Breve), Zweite Dame (Die Zauberflöte), Marie (La fille du régiment), and Prince Charmant (Cendrillon). She has collaborated with Craig Rutenberg in an Opera America Emerging Artist Recital, as well as with Perry So, performing Joaquin Turina’s Poema en forma de canciones. In 2018, Shaina was awarded 2nd place in the Rocky Mountain Regionals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Other awards include third prize in both the XXI Concurso Internacional de Canto Lirico and Alan M. & Joan Taub Ades Competition 2018, and First Prize in both the Eisenberg-Fried Concerto Competition and Talents of the World International Competition. In the summer of 2019, she will join the Grant Park Music Festival Project Inclusion Fellowship. Martinez holds a Bachelor’s degree from University of Maryland and a Master’s degree from Manhattan School of Music. Ms. Martinezmade her FGO debut during the 2019-2020 as Kate Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.. For more information about Shaina, visit www.shainamartinez.com.

Michael Miller

Michael Miller, baritone, was seen most recently in residence at Palm Beach Opera as an Apprentice Artist. Last season included his return to the Glimmerglass Festival, where he sang the role of Lt. Audebert (Campbell/Puts’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Silent Night) in a critically acclaimed performance, hailed by the New York Times as “spellbinding.” Previous summer seasons have held roles in Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath as a 2017 Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Gerdine Young Artist, a Glimmerglass Festival debut as Thomas Putnam in Francesca Zambello’s 2016 production of Robert Ward’s The Crucible, as well as three seasons of study at Seagle Music Colony, where he sang the title role in Il barbiere di Siviglia in 2015. While earning his Master of Music from Boston Conservatory, Michael appeared as Eugene Onegin, Joseph DeRocher (Dead Man Walking), and Herr Fluth (Die Lustigen Weiber von Winsdor). Michael also holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Michigan. Originally from Meadville, PA, he now calls Boston home. Mr. Miller made his Florida Grand Opera debut during the 2019-2020 season as Masetto in Don Giovanni and The Official Registrar/Prince Yamadori in Madama Butterfly. For more information about Michael, visit www.michaelmillerbaritone.com.

Andrew Simpson

Andrew Simpson is a bass-baritone from Dallas, TX. He studied with the great bass Samuel Ramey at Wichita State University. Andrew has sung the roles of Angelotti in Tosca with the Wichita Grand Opera and Virginia Opera, Betto di Signa in Gianni Schicchi with the Chicago Opera Theater, the footman in Vanessa at the Santa Fe Opera, and Don Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia at Opera in the Rock. During his two years with the Palm Beach Opera he sang the Imperial Commissioner in Madama Butterfly, Count Ceprano in Rigoletto, the Jailer in Tosca, and Antonio in Le nozze di Figaro. Afterwards he has performed the roles of Colline in La bohème in concert style with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, Zuniga in Carmen with Annapolis Opera and First Soldier in Salome with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. As an apprentice artist he has also been given the opportunity to cover many roles including Masetto in Don Giovanni, and Sid in La fanciulla del West at the Santa Fe Opera as well as The Bonze in Madama Butterfly, Sparafucile and Monterone in Rigoletto, The Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance, Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro with the Palm Beach Opera, and Amonasro in Aida with the Virginia Opera. Upcoming performances include The Commentator in Scalia/Ginsburg with the Virginia Opera and Count Ceprano while covering Sparafucile in Rigoletto with Central City Opera.

The Studio Artist program is made possible by the generous support of the 2020/21 Season Studio Sponsors and Supporters: Lydia Harrison, Dr. Alvan Balent and Dr. Linda Balent, the estate of Rosemary Duffy Larson, and the estate of Linda T. Smith.

For more information contact 305-403-3310.

Spread the love!